A first indication that ancient ice was still present in the Tyrolean Alps arose from the 1991 discovery of the famous ~5200 years old Tyrolean Ice Man who emerged from the low elevation ablating ice field of the Hauslabjoch (3210 m) located ~30 km from Mt. Ortles, the highest mountain in South Tyrol, in the Italian Eastern Alps. This discovery provided an exceptional time window into our past history, focusing on how humans were interacting with the Alpine environment in the Neolithic and how rapid climate change may have affected their life, also contributing to bury the Tyrolean Ice Man first in snow and then in ice.
Das Eis und der Schnee unter den Füßen knirschen. Hin und wieder erspäht man den Schatten eines Felsens, ansonsten ist man von einer weißen Welt umgeben. Die Windböen ziehen und zerren an allem, was ihnen im Wege steht. Und trotzdem verschluckt die Stille der Eiswüste fast vollständig das Stapfen der Bergsteiger.
20 Schülerinnen und Schüler deutscher und italienischer Maturaklassen aus ganz Südtirol, haben sich dieses Jahr in Begleitung erfahrener Bergführer auf die Suldenspitze gewagt. Trotz polarähnlicher Wetterverhältnisse, hat es eine kleine Gruppe bis auf den Gipfel geschafft.
La sera precedente i giovani hanno partecipato a una videoconferenza con Alessia Cicconi, una ex-insegnante italiana che lavora all’università a Columbus (Ohio, USA). Lei ha avuto la possibilità di vivere alcuni mesi nel posto più arido del mondo: nell’Antartide. Alessia ha raccontato della sua esperienza straordinaria: ha trascorso l’estate nella base italiana.
Hi! My name is Giuliano and I come from Venosta Valley (Italy), a beautiful, tiny place in the heart of the European Alps. Given my background in environmental physics and my passion for the mountains, the ice and nature brought me to the new job I have started.
I work at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center in Columbus, Ohio, in the USA. This is one of the few research teams in the world that specializes in retrieving ice cores from high altitude areas and glaciers, such as the Alps. My project will last two years and will be summarized in a final report about climate and glaciers in the Bolzano Province.
The third edition of the Summer School in Glaciology for high school students of the Province of Bolzano has taken place between the 17th and 21st of September. This event has been organized in collaboration with the Departments of Education (Italian and German languages) of the Province of Bolzano, EURAC, the National Natural Park of Stelvio and the Hydrographic Office of the Province of Bolzano.
In 2012, the investigations on permafrost and ice boreholes were mainly focused on the retrieving of the instrumental data and the maintenance of the instrumentation. These activities were coordinated by the University of Pavia (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences) and the Office for Geology and Building Materials Testing of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano with the cooperation of the Ohio State University (Byrd Polar Research Center), the University of Padova (Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry and Department of Geosciences), the Hydrographic Office of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano and the University of Venezia (Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics).
During the summer of 2012, the activities on Mt. Ortles were aimed at achieving two main goals: maintenance of the automatic weather station (AWS, Figure 1) and the measurement of the mass balance on the site of the AWS and on the drilling site performed in 2011. These activities were coordinated by researchers of the Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry of the University of Padova and of the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, University of Udine, which have installed the weather station and carry on glaciological and hydrological investigations in the Eastern Italian Alps, mainly focused on the Ortles-Cevedale massif. Investigations were carried out in cooperation with the Byrd Polar Research Center of Ohio State University, the Hydrographic Office of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (University of Pavia), the Department of Geosciences (University of Padova) and the Environmental Science Department (University of Venice)
How did you happen to take part in scientific expeditions in extreme environments?
I vividly remember the first time that I saw a mountain over 6000 meters in elevation. I was invited to be a member of a mountaineering expedition in Perù, and when we first arrived, I was scanning the horizon for the mountains that we were going to climb. I was used to 4000 m mountains in Colorado, and so I immediately began looking at a certain altitude. I had to keep looking higher and higher, and when I eventually saw the summit I mumbled something along the lines of, “We are going to climb THAT?!”. The immensity of the mountains and glaciers give an impression of a very permanent presence.
Below is a short summary report of what happened on the Ortler project over the course of the last month.
Between 23 September and6 October 2011, four ice cores were extracted at 3,860 metres from the “Vedretta Alta dell’Ortles” glacier in South Tyrol. This is the first time ice cores have been extracted from the Eastern Alps. The rock, which lies 75 metres below the glacier, was reached during three of the extractions, whereas during the last operation, perforation only reached 60 metres.
Today we would like to summarise what’s happened so far.
As you might have guessed, the group of researchers has left the summit glacier of the Ortler mountain where perforation activities had been taking place. They took down all structures beginning the afternoon of 6 October and left the site the following morning. The helicopter had to make 20 return flights in order to bring all the material down to the valley, including the four precious ice cores which had been extracted during four separate operations.